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Humane stunning in the slaughter of wild-caught fish for food


This research project will investigate the feasibility of the development and use of humane stunning or stun/killing for wild-capture fish, in order to minise pain or distress in wild-capture commercial fisheries.


An estimated 0.79 to 2.3 trillion finfish are caught from the wild globally each year. The vast majority of these fish are not humanely stunned before killing, and evidence suggests these fish may experience significant suffering between the time they are captured and their death. Recommendations exist to improve the welfare of farmed fish at slaughter, through the use of humane stunning methods/devices, to ensure immediate and irreversible loss of consciousness which lasts until death. However, to date no specific guidelines exist for wild-caught fish. 

This project will comprise of 3 major components to investigate the overall feasibility of humane stunning in wild-capture fisheries:

  1. An overview of the worldwide wild-capture fishing industry including: Estimates of the tonnage and numbers of each species captured; method by which fish are captured and killed; geographical area where fish are caught and market where they are sold; the extent to which these fish are already stunned; and reasons for lack of uptake.
  2. A systematic map of relevant research into the humane stunning of wild-caught fish: “What is the evidence for humane stunning in the slaughter of wild-caught fish for food?” The systematic map will provide an overview of the evidence base and will be used to identify knowledge gaps that would benefit from primary research, and sub-sets of evidence that may be suitable for further secondary synthesis. 
  3. A feasibility analysis of which fishing systems, species of fish, geographical fishing area etc is most likely to be amenable to the adoption of routine stunning of wild-caught fish. This analysis will identify: where the need for stunning is greatest; where stunning is most likely to be feasible; and the impact of stunning on sustainability and if there is any potential synergy between increased use of stunning and increased sustainability.

Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Salvador Prats Aparicio for his work on this research.

The draft protocol has also been published on the Systematic Reviews for Animals and Food  (SYREAF) website.



Funding Body

Humane Slaughter Association

Lead Organisation

Harper Adams University


The University of Gothenburg, Silsoe Livestock Systems Ltd and the University of Kelaniya


Click the file name to download the project file:

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